Canadian Gothic?

Published July 7, 2013 by A.J.B. Johnston

I’ve just finished Anne Marie MacDonald’s Fall on Your Knees and I’m incredibly impressed by the terrific writer that she is. It reminded me many times of the great 19th century classics because it’s a sweeping saga across a great stage. And there is so much inventive imagery and clever word use, more than in any book I’ve read in a long time. And yet, and yet, what a Gothic tale. There are a few happy moments, but they are few and far between. Mostly it’s an unrelenting tale of woe, mishap and suffering of one kind or another. In that regard, the novel recalled Terence Malick’s film of a few years back, Tree of Life. In that film there was not even a hint that there could be joy and pleasure in life. At least MacDonald offers a few hints. Yet, it’s the tragedies where the emphasis is placed, and they do pile up. So much Canadian literature and so many films explore similar themes. Life is frustration and despair, and then you’re dead. Something Gothic in the air, soil and water of this land? It seems so. I’d like to think that there can also be serious literature without everyone being miserable or killed off.

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